FAA approves Houston Airport to become the USA’s 10th spaceport

Posted on 6 Jul 2015 by Tim Brown

The Houston Airport System (HAS) has been granted a Launch Site License from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that enables Ellington Airport (EFD) to establish itself as a launch site for Reusable Launch Vehicles (RLV).

Nearly two years after Houston City Council members gave their overwhelming support for the project, the FAA’s formal approval opens the door for plans that could see Ellington Airport become a focal point for aerospace operations, such as the launching of micro satellites, astronaut training, zero gravity experimentation, spacecraft manufacturing and a host of other potential activities.

The decision will see the Houston Airport become only the 10th commercial spaceport in the US.

Houston will play a lead role in commercial space operations in the 21st century,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker. “We believe a licensed Spaceport in Houston will not only serve as an economic generator for the city but also enhance Houston’s well-deserved reputation as a leader and key player in the aerospace industry.”

After working closely with the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, HAS now can move forward in establishing the required infrastructure and support facilities needed to accommodate RLVs — which execute horizontal launches, rather than vertical, similar to commercial aircraft.

Houston has been at the forefront of aviation history and innovation for decades,” Houston Aviation director Mario C. Diaz said. “Not only does this opportunity reinforce an already long-established connection with the aerospace industry, it offers Houston an opportunity to strengthen its reputation as a forward-looking city and leader in creating high-tech, next-generation type jobs.”

HAS really started progressing its spaceport plans two years ago, when the Houston City Council approved a $718,000 contract for a consulting firm to study how Ellington Airport could obtain a spaceport launch site operator’s license. However, HAS has looked into developing a spaceport in Houston since early 2011.

Situated near the Gulf of Mexico, and featuring more than 400 acres of land readily available for development, the Houston Airport is tailor-made for the requirements associated with an operating licensed Spaceport. As a whole, Houston offers a booming economy with a strong aerospace industrial base, a well-educated workforce with experience in the high-tech demands of space exploration and plenty of room for growth at a strategically located airport facility.

“We look forward to completing our vision to create an aerospace industry cluster at the Houston Spaceport,” said Arturo Machuca, the General Manager at Ellington Airport who has led the efforts to bring the spaceport project to EFD. “Now that we are officially the 10th commercial spaceport in the U.S. we are ready to work with our aerospace industry partners to take advantage of the unique location, infrastructure and human resources that the fourth largest city in the US has to offer.”

View the image gallery of the proposed Houston spaceport below. Click the images to scroll through the gallery.